Mgahinga National Park is located in the Virunga Mountains and encompasses three inactive volcanoes, namely Mount Muhabura, Mount Gahinga, and Mount Sabyinyo. In altitude the national park ranges from 2,227 to 4,127 m (7,306 to 13,540 ft) and is part of the Nile River watershed area. It is contiguous with Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park and the southern sector of Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Mgahinga national park is the smallest national park at only 33.7 km2 in size, but then one of the most popular national parks in Uganda, the pearl of Africa. The park is situated in the south western part of the country, Kisoro district about 9 to 10 hours of drive by road and 519 kilometers from the country’s capital city, Kampala City.
The park derives its name from a Kinyarwanda word “Gahinga” meaning piles of volcanic stones cleared from farm lands at the foot of the volcanoes. Apart from the park being famous for its gorilla trekking activities, the park is yet endowed with another primate species which are the golden monkeys.
Mgahinga national park was gazetted as one of the country’s national parks in 1991 after about 40 years of declaration by the British administration as a game sanctuary in 1930. The park borders Democratic Republic of Congo’s Virunga national park, another renowned home for mountain gorillas.
The park is part of the Virunga region and dominated by volcanoes, dense forests, lush vegetation, Savannah grasslands, tropical forests, woodlands, montane forests and semi alpine vegetation. Visitors can surely anticipate to have comely nature beauty views while at Mgahinga.
The main aim of the establishment of the park was to protect part of the mountain gorillas that roamed freely in the Virunga massif. Mgahinga national park is the second tourist destination for gorilla trekking safari tours in Uganda and one of the best places to see mountain gorillas. There is only one habituated gorilla family group in the park while the rest are sheltered in Bwindi National Park.
Popular tourist activities in Mgahinga national park include volcano hiking, golden monkey tracking, gorilla trekking, bird watching and exploring the Batwa culture.
TOURIST ATTRACTIONS AND ACTIVITIES IN MGAHINGA NATIONAL PARK.
Mgahinga national park homes about 38 mammal species including leopards, buffaloes, elephants, spotted hyenas, to mention but a few. The park also shelters about 78 rare bird species. Apart from the wildlife, the park is also famous for it’s hiking tourism activities on Mountains like Mountain Ghinga, Mountain Muhavura and mountain Sabyinyo.
Mgahinga national park is interestingly endowed with three famous volcanoes including Mgahinga, Sabyinyo and Muhavura,hiking one of these three mountains is a lifetime experience as visitors get to see the most beautiful views of Virunga region that spans Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda. Muhavura is the youngest mountain in the park while Sabyinyo is believed to be the oldest.
Mount Mgahinga stands at 3474 meters tall , Mountain Sabyinyo at 3669 meters high while Muhavura stands at 4127 meters tall and all the three volcanoes border the three countries.
Less fit visitors can opt to go for Mountain Gahinga hiking as it’s the simplest for hiking among all, it takes about 6 hours both ascending and descending to hike mount Gahinga. The entire hiking process of these volcanoes is quite uncomfortable and challenging but once embraced, it’s the most rewarding life time experience. The hiking of all the three volcanoes is absolutely possible and can be done in just three days.
Visitors are advised to be at their best health first in preparation for the tiresome but rewarding activity and carry enough drinking water as refreshments, food and sleeping bag. This is because sometimes hikers tend to spend some nights at the top of these mountains once they reach the summit.
On the hiking day visitors are briefed in the early morning hours on simple regulations and instructions to follow while on the hike before setting for at 8:00am.
BATWA CULTURAL VISITORS.
Batwa cultural safari tour is one of the most thrilling and interesting tourism activities in and around the Mgahinga national park. Initially, there have been several tribes around the park and to date they still fi8nd the place as home and the two carry almost the same history.
For over a thousand years, the Batwa have lived in Mgahinga forests surviving on hunting for food. Apart from hunting, they also engaged in fruit gathering and honey harvesting.
Later when the forest was conserved as a national park by the government, all this life came to an end and a big number of the Batwa were forced to evacuate the park.
A big number of Batwa live homelessness forging life right outside the park. However, several helping organizations and some of the income generated from the tourist sector in support and assistance to the Batwa tribe.
GORILLA TREKKING AND GOLDEN MONKEY TRACKING IN THE PARK.
Apart from Mgahinga being the second top host for mountain gorillas in the country, the park also offers the best golden monkey tourism activities. There is only one habituated gorilla family group in Mgahinga. There are also about 80 individuals of golden monkeys that can be tracked in the park.